April 18, 2002
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The 2002 Stanford women's gymnastics squad advanced to the NCAA Super Six for the first time in school history. The Cardinal finished in third place with a 196.050 overall score in the preliminary round of the NCAA Championships, Thursday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala. This year marks the fifth NCAA appearance for Stanford, which had previously finished only as high as 8th at the 2001 NCAA Championships.
That's because the No. 10-ranked Cardinal was able to bounce back from a slow start Thursday night and accomplish what no other Stanford women's gymnastics team has ever done- qualify for the Super Six.
Host Alabama finished in first place with an overall score of 197.300, followed by defending champion UCLA at 197.100 and Stanford at 196.050. Rounding out the field was Minnesota in fourth place at 195.700, Florida taking fifth with a 195.675 and Oregon State claiming sixth place honors with a 192.925 tally. The top three squads advance to the Super Six, which is scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m. CDT/5 p.m. PDT. The winner will be crowned the 2002 national champion.
"I'm so excited and absolutely in awe of my team," said first-year Stanford head coach Kristen Smyth. "We started off tight on bars, but finished with our most spectacular effort of the year on vault. We've talked all year about making a Super Six, and tonight those dreams became a reality."
After the first two rotations, it looked as if those dreams was have to wait another year. The Cardinal got off to a slow start in its first two events, bars and balance beam, which had been two of its biggest strengths this season. Through three rotations, Stanford was sitting at 97.825. But the Cardinal would eventually put it together, posting a 49.025 floor exercise score and ending with a season-best 49.200 on vault to earn a berth in the Super Six.
Meet standouts included sophomores Caroline Fluhrer (Seattle, Wash.), who recorded a 39.150 All-Around score in her first appearance on all four events since Feb. 10 due to injury, and Kendall Beck (San Antonio, Texas), who notched the team's highest score of the night on vault with a 9.900- good enough for second place honors overall. Sophomores Lise L?veill? (Burnaby, British Columbia) and Lindsay Wing (Cypress, Texas) tied for fourth place overall on beam with a 9.875. As a result, Beck, L?veill? and Wing were awarded First Team All-America status and advance to the NCAA Individual Event Finals on Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m. CDT/5 p.m. PDT.
Stanford struggled in its first event of the evening, netting just a 48.650 on vault. Wing, Fluhrer and Kristin Jensen (Easton, Pa.) notched the highest scores with marks of 9.750. Abby Gair (Manitou Springs, Colo.) and Becky Meldrum (Mertztown, Pa.) both chalked a 9.700, while senior Katy Herbert (Chandler Heights, Ariz.) tallied a 9.175.
The second routine, balance beam, was slightly better and pushed the Cardinal back among the leaders. Stanford scored a 49.175, highlighted by Wing and L?veill? at 9.875. Beck came through with a 9.850, followed by Meldrum at 9.800, Herbert at 9.775 and Fluhrer with a 9.750.
Following its first bye of the evening, the Cardinal began to make its move up the standings in the fourth and fifth rotations, competing on floor and vault.
L?veill? led the way on floor, scoring a 9.875 to take eighth place honors overall in the session. Three Stanford gymnasts posted scores of 9.800: Co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Mandy Delgado (Cupertino, Calif.), Fluhrer and Wing. Seniors Meldrum (9.750) and Herbert (9.725) rounded out the group.
Doing its best to fend off Florida and Minnesota for the final spot in the Super Six, Stanford moved to its final event of the evening- vault. Stanford would need a big finish, as it was faced with the unenviable position of having a bye in the final rotation and therefore had to sit back and watch the events unfold.
Not a problem, as the Cardinal proceeded to secure a berth in Friday's national championship, recording a season-best 49.200 in its final event of the evening. Beck's 9.900 led the club on vault, and Herbert, Delgado and Fluhrer all chipped in with scores of 9.850. Shelly Goldberg (Mequon, Wisc.) totaled a 9.750 in her only event of the night, while Wing hit a 9.525.
When it was all said and done, Stanford had held off its competition and stood in third place for the evening.
So how would such an emotionally-charged evening affect head coach Kristen Smyth's excited, young squad?
"We've worked really hard to get to this point," explained Smyth. "We have many athletes who didn't compete tonight that are capable of stepping in tomorrow and contributing. I think they'll be so excited going off fumes alone, that they'll have no problem getting it together."
And it won't be easy. Stanford will be among perennial powerhouses UCLA, Utah, Georgia and Alabama, as well as Nebraska- which finished third in the afternoon session. In the 20-year history of the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships, only four schools (Utah, Georgia, Alabama and UCLA) have been crowned national champions. The Cardinal will begin with a bye, then move to bars, beam, a second bye, floor and vault.
But then again, no other Stanford women's gymnastics team has even had that opportunity.
NOTES: Three Stanford gymnasts advanced to Saturday's Individual Event Finals: Kendall Beck (vault), Lindsay Wing (beam) and Lis? L?veill? (beam). Beck, who notched a 9.900 on Thursday to take second place honors, will compete ninth in the event out of 11 competitors. Wing is scheduled to go 8th on beam, with L?veill? checking in at 11th out of 13 participants. Saturday's Individual Event Finals begin at 7 p.m. CDT/5 p.m. PDT.